Ford’s F-series pickup trucks have been the best-selling vehicles in the United States for what seems like forever, so there’s probably a powerful temptation not to mess with something that has worked so well. But the times, they are a-changin’, and so must pickup trucks.
Ford revealed its new ideas in the form of the all-electric 2022 F-150 Lightning this past spring, but there’s another new option for those who want to go green(er) but aren’t willing to give up burning hydrocarbons to get around: the F-150 PowerBoost hybrid. While the hybrid is not a game-changer, it offers better mileage and the ability to use it as a 7.2 kWh generator—even while the vehicle is in motion.
Let’s start under the hood of the F-150 4×4 SuperCrew Lariat we tested. There, you’ll find a Ford 3.5 L, twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 engine, one of the six options in the F-150 lineup. It’s the most powerful and torquey powertrain available for the truck, with 430 hp (320 kW) and 530 lb-ft (718 Nm) on tap. Ford has combined the V6 with a 47 hp (35kW) electric motor that lives between the engine and the 10-speed automatic transmission, and it is powered by a 1.5 kWh li-ion battery. While that may seem small for a massive pickup truck, it’s indicative of Ford’s strategy here: pairing electrons with hydrocarbons for a modest increase in mileage and a bigger increase in performance. With the electric motor working in tandem with the engine—a combo Ford dubs the “3.5 L PowerBoost Fully Hybrid V6″—max horsepower and torque both jump around 17 percent to 430 hp (321 kW) and 570 lb-ft (773 Nm), respectively. Those numbers put the F-150 hybrid at the top of Ford’s pickup range when it comes to pure power and torque.
The F-150 hybrid is all about power. Beyond horsepower and torque, this truck really wants to be your personal power station. While the hybrid is not the only F-150 that can act as a generator, it’s the only one that offers a 240 V, 30 A outlet in the bed. (There are four more 120 V, 20 A outlets in the bed and a couple more in the cab.) It’s a full 7.2 kWh generator that can run for up to 32 hours on a full tank of gas. And with the ability to run in generator mode while in motion, you can charge your tools on the way to the job site.
You’ll see some benefit from the hybrid at the gas pump, too, but not as much. The EPA rates the hybrid at 25 mpg (9.41 L/100 km) combined across city and highway driving. That’s better than the rest of the F-150 lineup, which is mostly in the 19-22 mpg range in the city (the 3.0 L V6 is rated for 20 mpg [11.76 L/100 km]), 27 mpg (8.71 L/100 km) on the highway, and 23 mpg (10.23 L/100 km) overall, but it’s the wimpiest power plant in the F-150 lineup. We weren’t able to get close to those numbers. We averaged 21.4 mpg (10.99 L/100 km) in a week of driving that included a road trip to central Illinois. Whether we were tooling down Interstate 57 or running errands in suburban Chicago, mileage was remarkably consistent. With its 30.6-gallon (115.8 L) gas tank, expect to travel well over 600 miles (965 km) between refueling.
Maximum payload for the F-150 hybrid is 7,350 lb (3,340 kg), which is 500 lb (227 kg) shy of the max in Ford’s F-150 lineup. Towing capacity ranges from 16,700 lb (7,575 kg) up to 18,400 lb (8,346 kg), depending on axle ratio and whether four-wheel drive is engaged. Cargo box volume in the hybrid with its 5.5-foot (1,676 mm) bed comes in at 52.8 cubic feet; a 6.5-foot (1,981 mm) bed is also available.
There are few surprises on the road with the F-150. At the end of the day, you’re driving around in a box on a frame, so you’re going to get the typical pickup truck ride. My only real niggle is with the 10-speed modular hybrid transmission. The adaptive 10-speed drive cycle sometimes skips gears when upshifting and downshifting, occasionally resulting in a slight lurching when the F-150 went directly from first gear to third. The lighter the touch on the accelerator, the more pronounced the jump. At lower speeds, the engine will shut off, and you can cruise a mile or two on the electric motor. Moving between gas and electric propulsion is all but imperceptible, and the engine shuts off when you put the truck in park.
One other observation from behind the wheel: our test vehicle was equipped with Co-Pilot360, Ford’s full suite of driver-assist tech. I’ve grown to appreciate this tech over the past couple of years, as it makes long stretches of highway driving less fatiguing. As implemented in the F-150, though, the tech could use more polish. While the stop-and-go adaptive cruise control worked like a charm in heavy traffic, the lane-keep assist lost track of the road markings much more frequently than other, similarly equipped cars I’ve driven. And Ford’s Lane Centering feature sometimes made me feel like it was still working on its learner’s permit.
When it comes to bells and whistles, Ford knows what its customers want, and it doesn’t disappoint. The tailgate has a ruler (imperial and metric) imprinted on it, and there are two clamp holes along the tailgate. The tie-down cleats on the side of the tailgate double as bottle openers for all of your tailgating needs. And if you’re going to be climbing in and out of the bed, you can slide out a step and handhold. Power outlets are located just inside the tailgate on the left side.
The spacious and comfortable cab is fantastically designed, and the standard, 10-way adjustable and fully reclinable power seats make finding the perfect driving (or napping) position a snap.
Ford offers an optional 12-inch landscape display in the middle of the dash (8 inches is standard). It runs Sync 4, a major improvement over Sync 3, and it supports CarPlay and Android Auto. The display really shines when you’re navigating tight spaces: the left two-thirds shows the backup camera, while the right has an overhead, 380° view with guidelines showing wheel orientation and direction of travel. Climate control knobs and switches live below the display. Press the button next to the shift lever and it will fold down into the console so you can unfold an interior work surface big enough for a laptop, clipboard, or even a candlelit dinner for two.
The instrument panel has gone all-digital, with the customizable 12-inch display providing feedback on your driving style to maximize gas mileage.
Annual sales figures clearly show the ongoing American obsession with large vehicles, and when it comes to performance, comfort, and features, Ford has given the people what they want with the redesigned F-150. What the people need is more electrification and less fossil fuel consumption. The F-150 PowerBoost hybrid is a step in the right direction, and Ford has positioned the vehicle as the best choice for the performance-obsessed.
While the EPA’s 25 mpg rating may not look that impressive by itself, it’s up to 25 percent better than the rest of the lineup. The F-150 4X4 SuperCrew Lariat starts at $50,980, and the MSRP of the truck we tested is $70,960. That’s more than you’ll pay for pure petrol power, but it’s a realistic option for those in need of a new truck who either can’t wait for the F-150 Lightning or aren’t ready for the full BEV experience.
Listing image by Eric Bangeman